Kevin Dailey was never supposed to be a teacher.
As a child, he had hopes of being an architect, taking an idea and forging it into something that would last forever.
“As a child of divorce and of economic insecurity, not much was expected of me at school,” said Dailey, a teacher at Ballyshannon Middle School (Boone County). “I would finish school, then I would paint houses like my dad and his dad before him.”
It wasn’t until his sophomore year in a computer repair class that he felt he had the support he needed to become successful.
“For the first time in my life, the person in the front of the room didn’t see me through my parents’ successes and failures, or as a poor kid from Covington. Instead, Mrs. (Linda) Foxx saw me as me,” Dailey said.
On Sept. 13, Dailey was named the 2024 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, along with Kentucky Middle School Teacher of the Year in a ceremony at the Kentucky state Capitol building in Frankfort.
Dailey has taught middle and high school for 10 years, and currently teaches U.S. history at Ballyshannon Middle, where he has been for the past five years.
“I tell my students from day one, I already love you,” Dailey said. “I don’t know you yet, but I love you, I think you’re awesome and you’re going to do great things.”
Once inside his classroom, he takes his students on adventures. From guest speakers who come in to speak about historical topics to melting cacao nibs for hot chocolate, they’re all opportunities to transport students outside school walls.
“The lessons in my classroom allow students to explore a time or culture they may have never had the opportunity to encounter,” Dailey said. “These experiences can spark curiosity, build empathy and understanding for others, and truly make learning fun.”
Throughout his time in education, Dailey has participated in many initiatives in his school district, around his community and statewide. He has held positions on the Kentucky Council for the Social Studies, the Boone County Education Association and in KY 120 United, which supports educators, state workers, classified employees and retirees in all of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
One initiative Dailey is proud of is the Ballyshannon Guest Speaker series at his school. He invites scholars and historians from around the region to come into his classroom and share their love of history and their thoughts with his students.
Dailey said the series started as a way to provide a mirror for his diverse students, and has made a massive improvement in their school environment.
“Each installment of the series allows for my students to see themselves represented in the lessons they learn, but also in the experts that teach them,” Dailey said.
Throughout the years, Dailey has had many achievements in and out of the classroom. He received the Milken Educator Award in 2021 and was named the 2023 Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes Fellow.
While Dailey has many roles around his community, he said being a dedicated teacher is the one he’s most proud of.
“I want kids to feel safe and to feel happy,” he said. “Then, I want them to learn. My emphasis is making sure kids feel welcomed and whole, and then I’ll teach the heck out of them.”